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5 million bees stolen from Quebec field amid bee shortage

Bees are seen on a frame from a hive in Karen Hickey's backyard Wednesday, April 20, 2016 in Montreal. File / Paul Chiasson / The Canadian Press

MONTREAL – Quebec beekeeper Jean-Marc Labonte said on Thursday that he’s in a sticky situation after thieves buzzed off with about five million of his bees.

He said he noticed on Wednesday that 180 hives were stolen from a field near Victoriaville, Que., about 150 kilometres northeast of Montreal.

The bees and hives are worth about $200,000, he said, adding he thinks they were stolen sometime between April 24-26.

“To have hives stolen like that, it’s not funny at all,” said the president of the family company, Miel Labonte.

As of Thursday no arrests have been made, Quebec provincial police said.

READ MORE: How you can help save the bees this spring

Labonte said Quebec, like many areas in North America, is suffering from a shortage of bees that for years have been decimated by disease and pesticides.

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He said he thinks shortages are the reason why his little critters were stolen.

Labonte said the bees were hibernating for the winter and in about five weeks time were set to pollinate the blueberry bushes around the Lac Saint-Jean region before moving on to cranberry fields in July.

Leo Buteau, president of Quebec’s beekeeper federation, said large-scale thefts of bees and hives are uncommon.

He said it could be that keepers who lost a lot of bees over the winter could be tempted to replenish their hives with other peoples’ bees.

READ MORE: UBC scientists hoping to breed better bees

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